Shopping with the help of avatars, augmented reality and apps — according to the SURTRADE research project, this could be normality in the inner cities of Germany in the future. The project works on solutions for omnichannel trade. Smaller retail outlets should also benefit from the new opportunities. Omnichannel trade is wonderfully convenient for customers. They no longer make a clear distinction between stationary, online and mobile channel but decide how they wish to learn more about products, obtain or pay for them according to their needs. They often make the purchase decision wherever they find service is the best. This development, however, poses a great challenge for many retailers.
The HHL Chair of Marketing esp. E-Commerce and Cross-Media-Management is a partner of the SURTRADE (Smart Urban Retail Services) research project as well as the University of Leipzig and Kühne Logistics University (KLU) in Hamburg.Tchibo, SALT Solutions and CheckMobile represent the practical side.The multi-year project brings together scientists and practitioners and is supported by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research of Germany. The goal is to provide precisely those services which the retailers need to make the shopping experience as pleasant as possible for their customers. “We are working on a modular component system from which retailers can choose the tools and services that fit them and their customers best,” explains André Ludwig, professor at KLU and leader of SURTRADE. From generating a desire, consultation, purchase and the delivery of the goods to customer retention. Ludwig:
“We want to support specialized dealers and retailers on their way to omnichannel trading and also allow smaller businesses to exist alongside the major competitors.”
The first applications researched by the SURTRADE project can already be tested under real conditions. Nov 9 to 17, 2018, a living lab is opened in Leipzig’s city center which is serving as a test field. Trying out On-site application and services at the living lab is expressly desired; e.g. buying furniture with the HoloLens: Look at pieces of furniture from all angles in a virtual space.Or shopping for clothes without trying them on: The digital avatar can be adjusted to your personal measurements.
HHL is responsible for the evaluation of the living lab.
“We interview the visitors about the individual stations of the living lab to find out which ones were well-received and where there is still room for improvement,” explains Eric Holdack, Research Associate at the HHL Chair of Marketing.
The SURTRADE project partners expect active participation by Leipzigers in the living lab; and, consequently, findings about how they can continue to improve their offer to traders and customers. Another living lab will take place in Hamburg next year. Up until then, more services will be added.
SALT Solutions presents an avatar to help with clothes shopping at the living lab. Instead of cramming themselves into small changing rooms and viewing the clothes in bright artificial lighting, customers can now leave trying on the items to a virtual personality thanks to the mixed reality technology. “You simply put on mixed reality goggles, a so-called HoloLens, adjust the avatar to your own body measurements and can then view different cuts, designs and color combinations,” explains Gunter Teichmann, Head of Innovation and Research at SALT Solutions AG. The virtual self appears to be right in the middle of the room. “We are also working on having the avatars advise the customers in the future,” comments Teichmann. They are to give recommendations on models and colors based on previous purchases.
Not just clothes can be viewed and selected in a virtual setting. KLU is working on a solution where the HoloLens is used for furniture shopping. “With the help of mixed reality, the entire product portfolio can be presented in all variations and combinations — no matter if they are in stock at the store or not,” explains Professor Ludwig. This would allow furniture retailers to have showrooms in the heart of the city to present and sell their products. “This technology would also be beneficial for smaller retailers,” Ludwig continues. “They could offer a big product range like their customers are used to from online shops without having to keep all items in stock all the time.”
Another contribution from KLU to the SURTARDE project is based on the use of beacons; small transmitters that broadcast to smartphones. “If customers come close to a certain product, we can send useful information to them via their phones with an app,” Ludwig summarizes. “This could, for instance, be the contents of a product, reviews from other customers as you know them from online shops or personalized recommendations.”
At the living lab, this information relates to the Tchibo coffee specialties. The company stocks a shelf with selections from its product range in Leipzig and offers a free drink to all visitors of the living lab at its coffee bar. “The beacons allow us to make our products tangible for the customers on other levels as well,” says Michelle Trella, Junior Process Manager of Cross Channel Marketing at Tchibo. “We are very excited to see how the customers will react at the living lab.” Customers can create their own individual coffee drink thanks to the QBO coffeemaker which can be controlled either by an app or Alexa.
The University of Leipzig has contributed a digital map of Leipzig which helps customers to get their bearings. “Our map offers information to the users which is not necessarily available in other navigation apps,” says Tanja Korzer, Executive Research Associate at the Institute of Urban Development and Construction (ISB) at the University of Leipzig. . “We included not only shops, restaurants and hotels but also things people often have to search for for a long time if they do not know a city; for instance, places to sit, water fountains, public toilets and baby changing facilities.”
At the end of a shopping day, CheckMobile offers a solution for home delivery. The purchased goods are delivered free of charge — even from different shops, among them two Tchibo stores in Leipzig’s city center. “The goal of SURTRADE is to create a novel and positive shopping experience for customers,” says Janine Dulitz, Head of Professional Services at CheckMobile GmbH. “This includes them not having to carry their bags all over town.” CheckMobile GmbH is one of the leading technology companies in the strongly growing market for mobile process control and digitalization solutions.
November 9 to 17, 2018
Event space at Karstadt Leipzig, street level, Petersstraße entrance
Neumarkt 30, 04109 Leipzig
Open daily from 10 am to 8 pm.